This New Apartment Building Has a Common Slack Channel. This Is a Bad Idea.


A new development in way-too-expensive Williamsburg, New York, is offering a new, high-tech reason to move in: Slack. Slack — the chat program and all-consuming blob combining Gchat, Dropbox, and email — is popular in office and enterprise situations, though it’s also gaining a foothold elsewhere, in casual situations. Like your apartment!

Here’s a scenario direct from Brad Hargreaves, the CEO of Common, the company trying to turn adult living into dorm lyfe: “Someone will say they are making pancakes [in the channel] on a Sunday morning, and people will show up and have their own impromptu breakfast.” Hmmm … no, thanks! Being in constant communication with your neighbors sounds like a nightmare.

I strongly believe that there should be high barriers to communication with neighbors, especially those you aren’t friends with. A recent example from my life: A neighbor (whom I do not know) took their dying Christmas tree out to the curb, leaving needles all over the stairs. They did not clean them up. There was a trail of tree leavings going all the way from the front door to their apartment. It was not — in the grand scheme of things — annoying, but, also, cleaning up would have taken five minutes and been the considerate thing to do.

Here’s what would have happened if my apartment building had a dedicated Slack channel: I would have left a dumb, passive-aggressive note and come off looking like a real grouch and a schmuck.

Here’s what actually happened in my Slack-less building: I said nothing and did nothing, and my annoyance lessened gradually over a few days, in direct correlation with the amount of leaves in the hallway.

Another anecdote: A neighbor once came to my door to complain about the volume of my music (it was seven in the morning, which I think is the daytime, but whatever, I’m over it). I felt a deep and abiding shame because I had to look that person in the face, and they had to do likewise.

Slack diminishes that experience and makes it a lot easier to bug people about stuff. If I had a Slack channel for my apartment, I would be terrible, and I bet pretty much everyone else would be, too. Bugging your neighbor should not be as easy as sending a text.